Lovesey, Peter. The Vault.

London: Little Brown, 1999.

Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond was pretty much of an unsympathetic ass in the first couple of books in this series (he lost his job for two years, and deserved it), but the author has had the good sense to mellow him out.

Now, in this fifth volume, he’s back to being “the murder man in Bath,” though there often isn’t enough homicide to keep him busy, and that only makes him irritable. When excavations in the cellar of the extension to the Pump Room (a Bath landmark) turn up a pair of hands in twenty-year-old cement, Diamond figures it’s a really cold case, which doesn’t appeal to him. But then a professor of literature from Ohio, on holiday with his wife, and who has turned up an antique book he is convinced once belonged to Mary Shelley, makes it known that the cellar is all that remains of the house where Shelley wrote most of Frankenstein. The press, naturally, can’t pass on the Frankenstein’s monster/body parts theme and Diamond abruptly finds himself under orders from his new (female) ACC to give the “hands case” top priority.

Meanwhile, the professor’s wife has gone missing and he’s the prime suspect as far as CDI John Wigfull (Diamond’s principal rival) is concerned. But Wigfull isn’t safe, either. The professor has also tracked down what may well be Shelley’s personal writing box (a portable desk sort of thing) containing other connected artifacts — but then the antiques dealer with whom he’s been negotiating its purchase (while trying not to reveal its true value) is found floating in the Avon. And then there’s the Town Councilor who is also a member of the Police Authority, whom Diamond has developed a major dislike for, and who may be connected to some watercolors, possibly by William Blake (and possibly stolen), . . . and Blake, it turns out, may also have illustrated Frankenstein. And the watercolors are also connected to the antiques dealer. And a puppeteer.

It all gets rather complicated, as Lovesey’s books often do, but he manages to keep the threads straight and the result is a generally enjoyable and well-crafted mystery. Though Lovesey does have a tendency to portray Americans in the most clichéd terms. . . .

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Published in: on 14 September 2014 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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